The remote has been slightly redesigned and now offers more functionality. It remains one of our favorites because it is fully backlit, extremely intuitive, and easy to use. Preprogrammed codes give the remote command over other A/V devices. Like most HDTVs, the 50HDX82 can display high-definition 1080i material, and it converts incoming 720p HDTV, the format used by ABC, to 1080i. To watch HDTV on this set, you'll need to connect it to a compatible HDTV receiver. When fed standard NTSC video--such as VHS, satellite, or cable--this set's progressive-scan converter kicks in and up-converts the image to 540p. Converting the signal to 540p provides more lines (a.k.a. picture information) than that of the 480p display found in many other HDTVs.
Picture-enhancing features include 3:2 pull-down processing to reduce artifacts from film-based video sources such as DVD movies. There are also three selectable color-temperature settings; a best-of-breed 3D-YC comb filter for composite-video sources such as VHS; and CableClear DNR, a digital-noise-reduction function designed to improve the look of cable TV. Finally, scan-velocity modulation, a nasty edge-enhancement circuit that blocks detail rather than bettering it, can be defeated in the user menu. Last year's models did not offer this option.
This big guy is also loaded with convenience features. Our favorite perk is the separate memory slot devoted to each input, so picture adjustments--such as contrast, brightness, and so on--can be tweaked separately for each source. The dual-tuner, picture-in-picture mode will appeal to sports fans trying to keep tabs on two games at once. An autoconvergence feature called Touch Focus is onboard and is convenient for maintaining good convergence. Toshiba added a TheaterLink option with discreet IR codes, so the set can be operated by touch-panel remote systems such as Crestron and AMX.
The 50HDX82's most important connections are its two broadband component-video inputs and the newly added digital visual interface (DVI) with HDCP copy protection. The dual component-video inputs allow the set to accommodate both a progressive-scan DVD player and an HDTV set-top box. The DVI input is compatible with next-generation, DVI-equipped satellite dishes and off-air HDTV set-top boxes. You'll also find front-panel A/V inputs with S-Video for convenient camcorder and/or video-game hookup. Out of the box, the 50HDX82 turned in a typically dismal performance. The Warm color-temperature setting was fairly close to the NTSC standard of 6,500 Kelvin at the dimmer end of the light-output scale, but the bright end was superblue. Only a professional calibration can fix this issue.
The color decoders found in previous Toshibas have been among the best in the business, but that's not the case this year; the 50HDX82's color decoder overaccentuates reds. Therefore, we were forced to reduce the color control to get a realistic palette. This means that you lose some color resolution, especially from component-video sources such as DVD and HDTV. Unlike a faulty color temperature, the Toshiba's errant decoder cannot be fixed by a calibration.
Using a Sony DVP755NS DVD player to compare the interlaced and progressive-scan output of the set, we noticed that the 50HDX82 looked a bit cleaner and sharper when we ran the player on its progressive setting. Chapter 4 of Jurassic Park III, where the plane flies over the island, is a good test. We looked for artifacts along the plane's wings to determine which output method--interlaced or progressive-scan--shows the least-visible artifacts. This is a particularly important test with sets that handle 540p up-conversion. Certain TVs, such as those in Hitachi's 2002 RPTV line, actually look worse when fed a progressive-scan signal.
We sat back and watched some scenes from Monsters, Inc., one of our latest reference DVDs. Chapters 4 and 5 looked quite good, with relatively well-saturated color and lots of detail. A 1080i HDTV signal from a Sencore HDTV computer hard drive looked awesome on this set.
The 50HDX82 is capable of very good performance if it's set up properly. When compared to TVs such as the slightly more expensive Hitachi 51SWX20B the Toshiba offers true independent memory per input and better out-of-the-box color decoding, although this set's overall performance rating suffers since its color decoder cannot be calibrated.